Murtaza Vali

  • Norman Lewis, American Totem, 1960, oil on canvas, 74 × 45".

    Norman Lewis

    “Procession: The Art of Norman Lewis” is the first comprehensive museum retrospective of the work of the noted African American modernist. Curated by Ruth Fine, the exhibition, organized according to six chronological themes, brings together ninety-five paintings and works on paper spanning five decades. Lewis’s earliest works demonstrate an observational social realism that focused on the denizens and street life of Harlem, where the artist lived and worked for most of his life. Experiments with Cubist fragmentation and Surrealist automatism led him to gradually decouple line from color, using

  • Haleh Redjaian, Untitled, 2015, lithograph and thread on handwoven carpet, 43 3/4 × 27 1/2".

    Haleh Redjaian

    Like the work of her elders Nasreen Mohamedi and Zarina, Berlin-based Haleh Redjaian’s austere but playful abstractions exemplify an alternative Minimalist practice, one that simultaneously engages and troubles the grid, not wholly dismissing its potential for supporting and generating ornament and pattern, and that expresses the weight of memory and affect through the strategic use of reductive nonobjective forms. Including works in pen, graphite, paint, and gold leaf on paper, in thread on handwoven carpet, and spatial installations created using thread,“in-between spaces,” Redjaian’s solo

  • Ashish Avikunthak, Kalkimanthankatha (The Churning of Kalki), 2015, digital video, color and black-and-white, sound, 79 minutes.

    Ashish Avikunthak

    Set in a location with few distinguishing qualities, in lieu vague, Samuel Beckett’s spare, minimal Waiting for Godot (1953) is in many ways an ideal transcultural text, easily adaptable to different geographical, cultural, and linguistic contexts. Using the play’s basic premise—two men wander an apparent wasteland interminably awaiting the arrival of a third character—as a starting point, Ashish Avikunthak’s seventy-nine-minute film Kalkimanthankatha (The Churning of Kalki), 2015, transforms Beckett’s absurdist postwar “tragicomedy” into a subtle postcolonial reflection on the idea

  • Ana Santos, Untitled, 2015, stone, paraffin, 17 x 15 x 1".
    picks October 13, 2015

    Ana Santos

    The five untitled sculptural objects in Ana Santos’s impressive sophomore solo exhibition, appropriately titled “Stanza,” each serve as a discrete unit with its own internal rhythm that also resonates with the larger whole. Santos works with everyday materials and discarded objects that she finds and collects, combining them in subtle ways that preserve their unique materiality and hints of their former utility while opening them up to new formal and phenomenological readings. Her sculptures display a Minimalist restraint and a delicate, deft touch that suggest a sophisticated acuity toward

  • Françoise Grossen, Metamorphosis IV (7), 1987-90, manila, paper, plastic, acrylic paint, 72 x 18 x 16".
    picks August 07, 2015

    Françoise Grossen

    Dismissed as craft for decades, fiber as a sculptural medium is finally getting its much deserved due. The recent rediscovery of its many forgotten pioneers continues with this modest but must-see survey of work by the seventy-two-year-old Françoise Grossen—astonishingly, the New York–based Swiss artist’s first ever survey in the United States.

    Dangling languidly from the ceiling, Grossen’s sculptures are largely constructed through the repetition of simple everyday actions like twisting, braiding, and coiling, using two basic types of knots. Though primarily abstract, they cannot help but evoke

  • View of “Transfigurations: The Sculpture of Mrinalini Mukherjee,” 2015. From left: Van Raja, 1991–94; Netty’s Green, 2000; Untitled, 2000; Palm Scape II, 2013. Photo: Ram Rahman.

    Mrinalini Mukherjee

    MRINALINI MUKHERJEE’S fiber sculptures are efflorescent in both form and technique, gradually blossoming into their final shapes, some standing more than seven feet tall. And her palette—a spectrum of deep greens, yellows, reds, blues, and purples complementing the material’s natural browns—only adds to the works’ lushness. For more than two decades, beginning in 1969, Mukherjee exclusively worked with fiber, producing the strange and singular oeuvre that was at the heart of her breathtaking retrospective at the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi, where she lived and worked

  • Hank Willis Thomas, She’s All Tied Up . . . in a Poor System, 1951, digital C-print, 38 3/4 x 50".
    picks May 08, 2015

    Hank Willis Thomas

    Hank Willis Thomas’s latest exhibition presents a century’s worth—one per year since 1915— of magazine advertisements featuring white women. Each have been enlarged to poster size and all traces of branding have been erased, making it near impossible to identify the products being advertised, forcing us to interpret the images on their own terms. An enigmatic slogan-like title inspired by each advertisement's original text accompanies the corresponding works.

    Thomas’s series functions as a pictorial history of mainstream femininity in America, tracing shifts in the societal roles occupied by and

  • Sahej Rahal, Harbinger (detail), 2014, clay, polyurethane, hay, found objects, dimensions variable.

    the Kochi-Muziris Biennale

    ALTHOUGH IT IS ONLY in its second edition, the Kochi-Muziris Biennale seems replete with history, owing to its two storied sites: Kochi, an extant port on the Arabian Sea with a long history of global trade and multicultural exchange; and Muziris, a mythical ancient port destroyed in a devastating tsunami, whose archaeological traces are thought to have been recently excavated at nearby Pattanam. Given the biennial’s brief existence, its organizers understandably feel compelled to address the region’s past, but doing so without being repetitive or contrived is a tricky proposition. Declared

  • Kevin Schmidt, A Sign in the Northwest Passage, 2010, digital C-print, 64 1/8 × 49". From La Biennale de Montréal.

    La Biennale de Montréal

    The week before “L’avenir (looking forward),” the latest edition of the Biennale de Montréal, opened, a group of experts met at Berlin’s Haus der Kulturen der Welt to debate whether the Anthropocene, a new geological epoch marked by humanity’s profound impact on the earth, has indeed begun. While the thematic overlap between these two convocations can be chalked up to coincidence, the growing precarity of life has become difficult to deny, and the need to envision alternative possibilities is becoming at once more urgent and perhaps less feasible, as both the Montréal Biennale and the Berlin

  • View of “Babak Golkar,” 2014. Wall: Fair Trade, 2014. Floor: Assisted Reconstruction, 2014.

    Babak Golkar

    Each work in “The Return Project” was realized through an identical series of actions. Vancouver-based artist Babak Golkar begins by purchasing a cheap, usually decorative object from a local big-box store. After taking a life-size photograph of the object in his studio, he carefully deconstructs it, removing and occasionally replacing elements, retaining the original tags and packaging materials. The resulting product, designated as art via a discreetly placed authentication note and artist’s signature, is then rephotographed—again, at full size—retagged, repacked, and returned to

  • Zarina, Aleppo, 2013, Indian handmade paper dyed with Sumi ink, punched gold leaf paper, Arches Cover buff paper, 15 x 12 1/2".
    picks November 23, 2014

    Zarina

    Throughout art history, the technique of collage has commonly been used to create juxtapositions that highlight disjuncture and difference. Zarina’s latest exhibition, “Descending Darkness,” is a tour de force demonstration of how collage might be used differently, more quietly. Her limited palette of black and gold coupled with her restraint and precision produces delicate, minimal paper-cut collages, through which one may probe issues of spirituality and mortality.

    For the triptych Shadow on My Table I, II, III, 2014, black strips are carefully arranged on a white background to re-create the

  • Nick Cave, Untitled, 2014, mixed media, 98 x 35 x 40".
    picks September 12, 2014

    Nick Cave

    In “Made by Whites for Whites,” a sister exhibition to “Rescue” at Jack Shainman's Twenty-fourth Street gallery, Nick Cave abandons his signature Soundsuits—flamboyant and playful bodysuits fashioned out of everything from fabric, beads and buttons to metal, wood, and even human hair—for artifacts of a dark period in American history: blackface memorabilia. Circulating widely through the past two centuries these common household objects—featuring caricatures with jet-black skin, bulging white eyes, thick red lips, and wide toothy grins—surreptitiously domesticated and reinforced racist stereotypes.